Interview by Chris Simmons
The spotlight is back from Summer Vacay, and what better way to kick things off than to introduce another shiny new first year (they’re so cute at that age). With that said, we ended up in the sleepy town of Gonohe with the not so sleepy Jenny Sanchez. Find out about one of Nanbu’s newest recruits in interview below.
Why did you choose to join JET?
It was not always something I had wanted to do but towards the end of my degree I was an assistant teacher for the basic Japanese 101 level at my university. I fell in love with the classroom setting but it was a completely different track from where I had originally started (international relations with the intention of working as a political analyst). The teacher I taught with recommended JET quite highly and even gave me the best advice: To ask for the complete opposite of my previous experience in Japan (study abroad in Tokyo). I haven’t looked back since and I’m glad! 😀
What do you hope to gain from JET?
Bonds with my fellow JETs and a greater sense of autonomy. I hope this is just the beginning of a beautiful adventure in a career in education.
What are your plans after JET?
Either a degree in TESOL or to continue my international relations studies, I’m still trying to figure out my niche in academics.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
I’m slowly but surely being sucked into each of one of my elementary school’s clubs as an informal mentor. One day I join the game club, another day it’s the sports club… it’s been quite the experience being able to freely come and go without any serious pressure to join. I am looking to seriously pursue kendo or some form of martial arts and would eventually like to mentor for such a club at my Friday middle school.
What are a few things you like about Japan?
The great care and respect that people have for nature, it’s not something you see or feel in the States or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
The fact that it’s so homogenous makes it difficult to fit in at any level and I always stick out, making it easier to attract all sorts of attention.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
My family and Mexican food!
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
In Rowland Heights, I was the odd ball out: one of the few Mexican kids in the neighborhood as it was for the most part highly influenced by Chinese and Korean migrants. Growing up, I didn’t realize just how big of an influence it played in my life until I moved to Chino where the city was mostly Hispanic. I remember one instance where my grandmother commented on how many ‘Asian friends’ I had during a birthday party. None of my friends were Hispanic or even spoke Spanish. It wasn’t until she made that comment that there was a division of culture in my mind, I hadn’t been aware that I was different from them. I try to refer back to those experiences as often as I can when trying to readjust myself to Japanese culture.
What are your family and siblings like?
We’re very close knit and private; it’s always been difficult for my parents to let anyone in to our family circle. My mother is the caregiver in every sense of the world: when anyone needs here she is there for them 100% until they get back on their feet and her amazing sense of humor makes any situation that much more bearable. In contrast, my father is quiet, serious, and a man of few words. He does not joke as often as my mom and in some ways I take after him while my sister is more open and has a better sense of humor. At the end of the day we’re just your average family and we balance each other out!
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
Don’t we all? Mine had more to do with food. At the dorm party three years ago, I brought a very traditional rice pudding dessert known as arroz con leche (literally, rice with milk). As per request by the party host, I even brought in a little card detailing all the ingredients I used that way if anyone had an allergy they could avoid my specific dish…. sadly, it turns out that I ended up with an entire pot of rice pudding untouched by the end of the night because as I later found out from a Japanese friend: rice, sugar, milk, and cinnamon is a no-no in Japanese culture xD
Did you do anything exciting over summer vacation?
Yeah! I moved to Japan! I absolutely loved Gonohemachi’s description after reading through it and I’ve been driving around as much as I can on my own to orient myself. So for the most part this whole moving to a foreign country and setting up my own roots experience has been the most exciting summer vacation since study abroad in Tokyo three years ago.
have school lunch or BYOB (bring your own bento)?
Bring your own bento on some days. I can’t eat white rice or refined white bread because my body just can’t break it down on it’s own. Once in a while is fine (I will eat it if it shows up at official functions such as enkai and such) but every day, even if it is for one meal a day, is still too much for my body to handle so when the kids comment on my full bowl of rice or when I get strange looks from the teachers who have never heard of such a condition it’s quite stressful. However school lunch is so delicious and filling without the rice anyway that I’m having a hard time picking which would be better!
travel abroad or sight-see around Japan?
have a glass of wine or ice cold beer?
Sapporo or Asahi for the beer. Only moscato for the wine. Ideally both.
go for a walk or run?
Run! Get that BPM and that adrenaline running! The scenery is so beautiful